American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Slip on Ice, No Belay, Inexperience, Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Rundle

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982


Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Mount Rundle

On March 29, 1981, a large group from a University Outdoor Pursuits Program were climbing Professor Falls, a waterfall on the lower slopes of Mount Rundle near Banff. The route consists of a series of short steep pitches with flat steps in between. One of the party, a woman (26), had almost completed climbing the third step and was walking up a low-angle slope toward other members of the party. Since she was simply walking up easier terrain, the belay was discontinued. She slipped on a small bulge of ice and began to slide down the slope. The climbing rope attached to her was unattended and she fell back over the third pitch, falling 50 feet and landing on the next ice platform. Luckily she received only a concussion, multiple lacerations and bad bruises. She was picked up from the site by wardens, using helicopter sling techniques. (Source: T. Auger, Banff National Park)


The victim was relatively inexperienced and essentially a student on this climb. The consequences of a simple, unarrested slip on compact snow and ice are clearly illustrated here. A more experienced climber might be trusted to walk up such a slope unbelayed. Even then, if the belay rope was left running through a secure anchor, the leader might be able to collect the rope before a slip turned into a disaster. (Source: T. Auger, Banff National Park)

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